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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 124: Brown 93
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 123: Hastings 134
Lauren's plan was one of the most complicated progressions of scheduled events Derek had seen since he was trying to help schedule classes for the school she started. Yet once it began, it all seemed to unfold perfectly.
They left the wolves in three groups, an hour apart. Even though they would not be returning, Lauren said that she did not wish to risk a trace back to them. Derek was with Bethany this time, as Merlin was going with Lauren. After making several stops, they met in Central Park in New York, and then as a group moved to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Lauren and Bethany had done this part before, and Lauren left her cart in the closed hall, along with anything the others did not want to carry with them. From here it was a quick trip afoot to reach the dome control area; they entered through a hole in the roof.
As she had predicted, this place was understaffed. With all the damage they had been doing, it had not been possible to replace the vampires and ghouls Lauren and Bethany had felled on their previous visit. Merlin was able again to turn walls to glass, and as Derek opened the dome sunlight poured into their area. Whether because Philadelphia was a low priority for Tubrok or because he had not figured out how to respond to their new tactics, no commando unit arrived. Bob and Lauren destroyed a critical gear, and the team left all together for the café in France, and then split up into three groups. Lauren was to double back to Independence Hall to pick up her things; each group had its own route. In the end, they met again in a field by a barn known as Cowtown.
From here the plan was simple. Lauren pointed out that by now their enemies were certainly working hard on ways to trace their magical travels. It might take a few days, but Tubrok would eventually know that they reached Cowtown. It was there that he would lose the trail. A short walk through the Sharptown Mall put them by the Route 40 tube, where they grabbed a bus to Atlantic City, and then found the Speedline to Philadelphia. Lauren's strange gold money card paid for all this, and soon they were disembarking on the streets of Philadelphia--the city they had just freed. Lauren led the way down the street, pausing to look around a few times, and then knocked on a door. A young man answered.
"Come on in, Miz Hastings," he said to Lauren. "Gran has been expecting you."
"Thank you, Dimitri. I hope you enjoy the sunlight. You can be sure that Tubrok is not enjoying it." As she entered the building, everyone else behind her, she continued. "I'll introduce everyone at once; that's easier I think. I hoped God would let you know we were coming."
"Yeah, He seems to think of stuff like that. Gran? Company's here."
"Oh, good," an elderly lady, apparently blind and a bit unstable on her feet, said as she came into the hall. "Please, come on into the dining room, Lorne. I don't know if I have enough chairs, but we'll make you all as comfy as we can."
"Ana, these are the others God has sent to help me. Bethany is from England, actually, but she's a worker of miracles. These are Merlin, Derek, Bob, and Shella. Everyone, this is Ana, and her grandson Dimitri. She's a prophetess. He's a great help."
"You are of course all welcome to stay. I can hardly believe that you've managed to bring the light into the city already. I didn't think I'd live to see the day."
"We won't abuse your hospitality, good lady," Merlin said. "If you can just put up with us for a couple of days, we've more work to do in the world, so we'll be gone soon."
Derek had not really considered that before. The cave had not always been comfortable, but at least it had served as home. Things were escalating. They had to keep moving, to avoid being found. He wasn't sure he liked the idea that no place would be home.
On the other hand, this was a microcosm of his life. He had been seventeen years a sprite, but before that he was less than a year in Terranova. He spent more than a decade with Starson and the crew at the school, even after Lauren was gone; but his experience before that had been a succession of worlds none of which lasted a week and most less than a day. He was always moving from place to place; he had settled down to one world, one place, as a sprite, even though the entire time he was there he kept coming back to the question of what was he supposed to do and how should he do it. He'd failed really to enjoy just being somewhere. But this world drove home that problem more than he'd ever realized before. Here he was in the same world for several weeks now, but he had no place in this world he could call home, and no prospects of finding such a place.
It made him homesick--homesick for Mahwah and his human family, for the forest and his sprite family. He wanted to be home.
He wasn't home. He was here. There was nothing he could do about that, but do what he could here. Perhaps he could be here long enough that they might rid the world of vampires, and then he could make a home for himself. More likely, he thought, his luck would run out, and they would kill him, and then he would have to look for a home in whatever world came next. Maybe that would be better. This was not a world in which home was ever quite so safe or so comfortable as the word suggested, once you knew what was really happening in it. He would find a home eventually. It just wouldn't be here.
He set about charging power packs. Lauren went with him to a local electronics parts store, and he managed to get what he needed to build a charger that would handle Bob's odd power cells for his blaster. They were getting ready for the next raid. They just didn't know yet where that would be.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #209: Versers Victorious. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: